At this year’s Independent Fair in New York, there are the requisite “rediscoveries,” like Birgit Jürgenssen, straight from the Venice Biennale at the Hubert Winter Gallery stand, and semi-unexpected oddities, like the baffling paintings of cats by Renate Druks, now on display in a showcase donated by the Ranch. But nothing makes quite an impression quite like a pair of outstretched alien hands sticking up on a floor at this fair.
Made of aluminum and affixed to a peace sign, these hands are part of a 1993 HR Giger work known as Leben Herhlaten (life support). New York gallery Lomex brought the sculpture to the fair, along with a few others by the artist, known, among other things, for designing the 1979 horror film’s Xenomorph Extraterrestrial. For the Independent presentation, Lomex borrowed the sculpture from the Giger Foundation in Switzerland.
“It was produced as a work of art that really dealt with Cold War and nuclear war anxieties,” said Alexander Shulan, a dealer who founded Lomex. “The peace sign was originally created as an anti-nuclear war image, so the artwork is designed by him in response to that. It’s one of his most famous pieces.
Leben Herhlaten had an atypical life, just like works of art. He appeared particularly menacing when featured on the cover of the 1993 album work of heart by death metal band Carcass, and it was later hung in a room set aside for Giger’s work in the now defunct New York nightclub Limelight, where it was arranged like a crucifix.
Leben Herhlaten could be yours to bring home – it is for sale, although a price is only available on request. (Another work by Giger on the Lomex booth, an aluminum piece hanging on the wall that features what looks like an alien whose shapes are made up of mechanical parts, is priced at $25,000; others are $7,500. piece, plus framing costs.)
The presence of Giger’s work at an art fair is less unusual than it first appears. Her art has been a touchstone for a number of artists working on technology and the body.
Her sculptures have even been the subject of museum exhibitions lately, the Schinkel Pavilion in Berlin having devoted two exhibitions to her last year, one putting her in dialogue with works by Mire Lee, a South Korean sculptor from several generations younger than Giger, the other with works by surrealist artist Hans Bellmera precursor to Giger.
And there is a more general thirst for Giger’s work at the moment, as evidenced by the crowds that beset Lomex on a given day earlier this year when an investigation into him was in sight.
But this booth isn’t just about Giger, it also showcases works by two artists from the gallery, Oto Gillen and Valerie Keane. Gillen is represented by an eerie 15-foot-long photo triptych resembling a river of blood, Keane by two relatively more inviting hanging sculptures that seem more abstract plays on Giger’s imagery. They are the result of a dialogue of several years between Shulan and the artists he shows around Giger.
“My intention was to use it in an appropriate way, in dialogue with other artists, and to make implicit political commentary,” Shulan said.
The Lomex stand is unusual for another reason: it is set up in a space not usually occupied by exhibitors at the show and which includes a functional bathroom. Inside, three serigraphs represent science fiction beings connected to machines.
“These are works that were created by Bruno Bischofberger, who is a legendary gallery owner. When they were produced, they caused Giger to be kicked out of the art world,” Shulan said. “So these were the last works he made in the formal art world.”
Until Sunday, when the Independent Art Fair closes, you can see them sitting on the toilet.